On not getting what I asked for

In my last year of college
My life was a mess
Broken engagement
No job prospects
No idea what I wanted to do with my life
Nothing I wanted or hoped for was happening

But I met this one person who was
An instant friend
We laughed and cried and joked and were
Completely and utterly inseparable
Unstoppable together

She taught me everything, at least that’s how it felt at the time
To believe in God
To believe in myself
And the world was, and is, always better with her around

She later became the first female clergy member I ever knew well
I was so delighted when it finally became time to call her rabbi
I looked to her when imagining what it would be like to be clergy, not to my own tradition

We are still the best of friends
We survived her year in Israel thanks to AOL instant messenger
Oh, and some very cheap AT&T rates
There have been coast to coast flights
Long drives
Amtrak tickets
Facebook
Calls from the one in the car on the way to a meeting
To the one walking through the city on the way to a church

As time has gone on, so has life. With –
a coming out
jobs
spouses
moves
advanced degrees
babies
family emergencies
an ordination – and one on the way

And I am eternally grateful for her presence in my life.

But when I came to seminary, I asked, no, begged God for another friend.

The priesthood process had been
Long
Lonely
Confusing
Exhilarating
Life-changing

And I wanted to share, really share the journey with a friend
Who would understand
And who would take some pressure of putting up with me off my
Patient
Kind
Long suffering husband

So I looked for her
That bright young woman
About my age
Maybe married
Who would be my instant seminary friend
Who would laugh and cry and joke with me
We would be inseparable
Unstoppable
And she would “get” me
And teach me what would seem like everything at the time

But I couldn’t find her.

I kept looking

I was surrounded by people
Most I liked
Some I loved
And they taught me a lot
And many were friends
I am so glad I met them
No idea what I would have done without them

But I still couldn’t find her.

And sometimes I would miss her, this friend that didn’t exist.
I was mad at God
I hated walking this path without her
Junior year came and went and she wasn’t here
Where was she?

I thought – maybe she’s in the incoming class.
That’s it.
She’ll be a junior
While I’m a middler

And so I went to CPE
Hoping to survive the summer
And putting this imaginary friend out of my mind
Because I only had room for figuring out how to get through each day
Each week of CPE

So somewhere between IPR sessions and verbatim presentations
And all the craziness of Clinical Pastoral Education
I started having lunch with this CPE colleague
She is my age
And my denomination
I had heard of her
It is a small Church after all
But had never met her

She was from a different seminary
A year ahead
And her story was totally different than mine

But we laughed and cried and ate lunch together almost every day
And we often skipped riding the subway and walked and walked and walked
And we became inseparable
And unstoppable
And almost ruined the group dynamics with our friendship

We don’t get to see each other often these days
And our crazy schedules are a mess
But after a CPE summer together there is little we don’t know about each other
And we have kept that honesty and openness
And our long phone calls
When we can schedule them
Are about laughing
A lot
And the truth
The I-don’t-care-if-this-makes-you-mad truth
And she taught me, is teaching me, what feels like everything.

And so I came back to middler year a little less mad at God
Because at least I had someone to call
Who was young
And in this process
And “got” me
And would tell me the truth
Or reassure me that it is the Church that is crazy, not me

Still, I demanded the friend I had asked for
I was very clear with God this time
She was supposed to be ON CAMPUS
Not in another state most of the time

So I looked in the new class
And there were some nice people
And some actual young women this time
But she wasn’t there

And I thanked God for my female friends in the senior class
Who were actually very good friends
And funny and cynical and easy to talk to
But they weren’t her

And time went on
I was given a sacristan team to be in charge of
Every Thursday at 7 AM there they were
My middlers

Each so different
I loved them very quickly
And we worked well together
And laughed and joked
Showed up early so we could enjoy time together
Before the rest of the world got there
Instead of just working
And we were a team

My middler summer came
With it a lot of loneliness
My senior friends were gone
My husband was working for a high powered firm
And there I was
At home, mostly
Bored
And reeling from a rough semester

And still the prayed for friend hadn’t appeared.

In fact, I had pretty much given up on finding her.

Most of my immediate classmates were away for the summer

But the juniors were on campus
Lots of them
Doing CPE

So I decided to try to be
Useful
Needed
Pastoral
or something
To the folks going through CPE

There was one junior who intrigued me
More than the others
We knew each other reasonably well
From those early mornings in the sacristy
And he could always make me laugh
And could stop me in my tracks with a word or phrase
Here was someone who had an uncanny ability to read me

He had endeared himself to me with a little bit of compassion
At the end of the semester when I needed it most
And he is
Smart, really really smart
Near my age
Real
Married (well, the rest of the world would say partnered)

His story is so very very different from my own
And our friendship hasn’t been instant
But more gradual
Maybe that of two people who have been around
Enough
That we don’t just share instantly with anyone anymore

We don’t have time
Or lack of commitments
To be inseparable
But to my great delight we seek
Time to talk
And laugh until we just about cry
When we can amidst the craziness of our lives
And he “gets” me
And knows when to confront me
And when to be more kind

And recently we crossed some imaginary line
Into the realm
I can hang out with you
For no good reason
Ignoring you
Typing a paper
Doing chores
And it’s better than hanging out alone

And he is teaching me what feels like everything.

I never did get that female seminary best friend I asked for.

Instead I got two friends, neither of which met the demographics that
I specifically handed to God
On that old memo I wrote back in 2006

I could never have imagined them
Wished for them
Made them up
Dreamed of how they’d change my life
If I’d tried

But here they are.

I didn’t get what I
asked
begged
prayed
bargained
pleaded for

And I am eternally grateful.

Because now I can’t imagine it any other way.

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~ by Sophia on April 13, 2009.

3 Responses to “On not getting what I asked for”

  1. It is, perhaps, a hokey country song; but it’s also true: “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers…”

  2. I love this!

  3. Thanks. Lately I’ve been asking, begging, praying, bargaining, and pleading for a lot – and I’m not getting any of it. I don’t understand the chaos and the turmoil, it seems like it would be so simple for God to give me what I’m asking for. Thanks for reminding me that God will give me what I need, when I need it, and not necessarily in the way that I’ve requested.

    Now if I could just figure out how to wait with a little less anxiety. sigh

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